In recent years Sir Alex Ferguson has always liked to mix his team up for the big games and bring in a player that no one really expects to start. Park Ji Sung was his go to guy until he departed for QPR this summer. Although he was never of ‘star quality’, he was consistently effective in the job that Ferguson always picked him for.
Now we come to Tom Cleverley. I would like to be clear that I am not comparing him to Park Ji Sung as it is obvious Tom possesses much more quality than that of Park but the way Ferguson has used Cleverley in his big games this season it would not take a tremendous stretch of the imagination to see he that he has been deployed similar to Park.
Cleverley has been deployed considerably deeper than what is perceived as his best position and in doing so, Ferguson has helped add more to the defensive side of Cleverley’s game. Away against Chelsea and Manchester City in particular, Cleverley was deployed to harass the opposition but, unlike Park, his discipline and positioning thus rarely he left gaping holes that the likes of Silva and Mata could exploit against him.
Here against Arsenal (above) a glance at Cleverley’s passing shows that when he was deployed in a much more forward role his passing was considerably better than when we compare it to his games against Manchester City and Chelsea in particular. As you can see from the following when playing against Chelsea (below) he was deployed largely on the left hand side of a deep central midfield to negate the threat of Juan Mata of which he did so effectively before being substituted.
Cleverley’s finest game this season came against Newcastle (below) where he scored a wonder goal/cross. He was deployed in a midfield diamond and it suited Cleverley’s short passing game, constantly allowing him to recycle the ball effectively and keep possession, all of which stifles the opposition and negate their threat going forward.
Finally, we come to Sunday’s game against Manchester City (below) where one of the highlights of the teams perfomance was the stifling of City’s superior midfield (bar Gareth Barry of course). Cleverley’s effective use of possession with Michael Carrick against our most difficult opponent so far this season was instrumental. He adopted a pass-and-move ethos, always darting into space, and it helped us keep the ball.
Of course there is much more to come from Tom Cleverley. He needs to nail down a starting birth in the first team, add goals, work on his long passing, add a few more assists to his game and hopefully get an injury free spell. But he has brought more to his game slowly over time and now does not look out of place in a midfield for England or Manchester United.
The only way is up for Cleverley. He has worked his way through injuries and adversities to get to this stage, establishing himself as one of England’s finest young midfielders and if he can find some consistency with his fitness, he could become the dynamic and energetic midfielder we have been in need of for years.